Gujarat Police Busts Two Online Fraud Hubs With 58,000 Fake Affiliates

| Updated: March 19, 2023 3:27 pm

Dangle a carrot and the rabbit is sure to follow. The age-old adage finds enduring value with doubly reinforced gusto if the carrot is the iPhone 14. And for one-sixth the market price!!! Or a two-wheeler is single digit thousands. Or garments on your wish-list since long. 

Well, if the offer is too good to be true, then, it IS not true. 

In a recent crackdown on cyber fraudsters, Gujarat Police has reportedly closed over 58,000 fake accounts held by two popular online marketplaces. The accounts purportedly belonged to garment dealers, wholesale agents, ex-Army men selling vehicles, local businessmen or mobile phone resellers, among the other garbs, all selling new/old/ second-hand appliances/durables at unbelievable prices.

“Our team at the cyber forensics and prevention unit closed 58,435 fraudulent accounts operating within a 500 km radius in Gujarat in the past 21 months,” shared Manish Bhankaria, an inspector with the cybercrime wing of the Gujarat CID Crime department. Since May 2021, the officers have been shutting down almost 92 such accounts per day, he added.

“The fraudster, posing as a seller, sends an online spy link through SMS to the buyer, saying they need to send a token of Re 1 or Rs 10 to ensure there is no issue between the accounts. However, instead of sending a request for a deposit, they send a withdrawal request.

The unwitting buyer clicks on it and enters their UPI PIN or scans a code, exposing their financial information to the fraudster who then depletes the account,” he explained.  

He adds: “Initially, the crooks pose as Army personnel selling furniture bought from the defence canteen. Then they re-invent themselves as sellers of refurbished products.” Dy SP CID Crime (cybercrime) B.M. Tank added: “The online market sites have been proactive in extending their help as these fake sellers or buyers affect their brand and credibility.” But how does one spot a fake seller?”

The exercise, Bhankaria elaborated, involves opening individual profiles on online marketplaces and tracking each post along with its images. As he put it: “The first sign of a fake seller is images with the seller’s mobile numbers burnt into them. If one initiates a reverse search of these images through Google, the seller would have posted the same images on various sites with different offers.”

Each day by 7 pm, the cybercrime division sends a detailed list of mobile numbers and fake accounts to the online marketplaces, asking them to remove these in 15-20 minutes. The proactive approach has proved fruitful.

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